Dramatic fall in LED backlight cost

AUTHOR: Inavate

The cost of LED backlights is falling faster than that of conventional LCD backlights, according to analysis from DisplaySearch.

Predictions from the research body suggest an LED backlight unit for a 40” full HD LCD TV will reach $100 (€74) by the fourth quarter of 2010. In comparison, it suggests LED premiums will approach $50 by the end of 2011.

Most LCD panel and set makers are focusing on development of LED (light emitting diode) backlight units for improved visual performance, thinner form factor, and lower power consumption. DisplaySearch says this has been reducing cost, in absolute terms and relative to the conventional CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent) backlights.

The DisplaySearch Quarterly LED & CCFL Backlight Cost Report, disclosed that the average cost of 40” edge LED backlight unit in Q1’10 is $118, and will fall to $100 by Q4’10 (see Figure 1). Cost reduction is driven by increasing production volumes, which affects LED and material costs, and by improvement in LED luminous intensity, which enables the use of fewer LED chips.

The core components in a TV with an LED backlight unit—LED chips, LGP (light guide plate), and DBEF (dual brightness enhancement film)—are not used in conventional CCFL backlight units for LCD TVs. In the 40” LED backlight cost, the light source including the LED assembly accounts for 34 per cent of the bill of materials (BOM), the LGP is 13 per cent, and the DBEF is 15 per cent (see Figure 2). Therefore, it is apparent that LED design, output, and chip cost will be key for LED backlight cost reduction.

“To reduce LED backlight costs, manufacturers need to develop innovative LED backlight structures with minimal use of LED chips, LGPs with optimised patterns, and effective optical film stacks,” noted Kevin Kwak, DisplaySearch director of LED Backlight Unit Research.

“Analysing developments throughout the supply chain, we have built an LED and CCFL backlight cost simulation model,” Kwak continued. “Based on this model we can forecast that the cost of a 40” LED backlight will reach $100 in Q4’10, a 2.8x premium over the equivalent CCFL backlight, down from 3.7x at the beginning of 2009.”